Your books are set in ancient Rome. Why did you choose this time period and location?
As with many historical writers, I love history as a whole but have always had an affinity for Rome and the ancient times. Even the stories I wrote as a teenager were set in that time period. I watched Ben Hur and The Robe, but I remember even in sixth grade just soaking up all the information about that time period in history class.
The energy, the passion of the Empire's domination of the civilized world and the conquered who fought against them is fascinating to me. Their society was based on strict rules and convention yet these same civilized mores were often abused and manipulated so that the powerful could rule the world. The potential for external conflict alone makes it an ideal place to put a hero and heroine.
How much research did you have to do before beginning your Roman novels?
When I began my first manuscript, THE PATRICIAN'S DESIRE, I thought I had to do every bit of research before I began writing. If I had stuck to that plan, I'd still be researching. Instead, I took the advice of a friend and began the story, pausing as I went along to look up the particulars; types of food, the usual lot of an agricultural slave, the type of jewelry, the trade routes from Alexandria. Often during the search for information about one particular thing I would find a tidbit about something I knew I would need later and would bookmark it or print out the info and stuff it in a REALLY thick folder I keep for these items. If anyone wants to know how to cook a dormouse to perfection...maybe with a bit of garum (fish sauce), I'm your girl!
Tell us a bit about your books.
THE PATRICIAN'S DESIRE
Jared of Alexandria is a successful merchant prince who shuns his Roman heritage and counts on no one save himself to make his way in life. But when a series of devastating thefts threaten to ruin him, he seeks the counsel of a beautiful oracle to discover the thief. Bryna, a beautiful slave, is an unreliable seer who survives each day with only one thought--to escape and reunite with her brother. With a chance to find her way to freedom, she reluctantly agrees to assist his enemies and gives him false information that leads to his betrayal into slavery.
Jared labors under the lash and survives harsh conditions by planning the vengeance he will exact on the witch with fire sparked eyes and ice in her veins. For once the Fates take pity on him and deliver both freedom and Bryna into his hands. But destiny has a way of mocking the best of a man's plans, and Jared is stunned to find that only Bryna can help him discover his enemy and reclaim his life while exacting a devastating revenge of her own--claiming him heart and soul.
THE PATRICIAN'S FORTUNE
Born of the Equestrian class and sold by his father to clear a gambling debt, Damon is the ex-slave of Jared. Freed by his former master, now friend as a young man, Damon has been searching for his mother and two sisters. In an effort to gain the freedom of his last sister, Damon has been operating as a spy for a Roman Senator but finds himself caught in a web of deceit and sacrificed to the cross. Moments from being crucified he is saved by a mysterious woman who offers him his life..in return for posing as her husband.
Julia Manulus is a desperate patrician lady. Her father, a Senator, has been missing for months and she is under pressure by the powerful Prefect of Rome to marry. She only needs time until her father returns and decides that the criminal she's saved from death will be duly grateful and malleable enough to pose as her husband. That plan falls apart as she when she meets the incorrigible, stubborn and incredibly handsome man who has plans of his own. Together they survive the machinations of a power hungry enemy and find that love brings down the barriers of class and society.
The third in this connected series, this is the story of Bryna's brother Bran, a warrior with deeper wounds than the ones that mark his body after being a gladiator. His heroine Adria is a plebeian who survives by stealing and picks the wrong target when she steals from the dark barbarian. This story is in process but I'm loving writing it!
What challenges have you faced setting your books in Rome?
Well, the usual and the same as every author on this website has faced in getting their books published. I remember my inaugural RWA conference and the looks of pity I received when I said my books were set in Rome. Well, that just ratcheted up my determination.
I believe a historical romance can be set in any time period as long as it is a good story. I think others are starting to recognize this too. THE PATRICIAN'S DESIRE has won two contests (The Suzannah as "Captured Hearts" and The Molly), recently finished second in PASIC'S Book of Your Heart contest and was a 2006 Golden Heart finalist. Damon has been no slouch either, placing in two contests. I value each of these validations, but even more I value those in the writing and reading community who have said, "I'd love to read a historical set in Rome." I applaud the publishing professionals who are open to different stories and different eras.
Thank you for sharing with us, Joan, and best of luck in your endeavors. We look forward to hosting you again in the near future when you have your own book ready for a release party!